It’s Friday afternoon in early fall and Paul and Kim Reed’s schedules are tight, but a bit on the light side, with intention. There are a few tasks the owners of Denver-based North West Roofing need to complete to keep operations running smoothly, and Paul has some odds-and-ends to wrap up in the office before the weekend. And then the phone rings.
Thankfully, it’s not a personal emergency or a crisis on a jobsite. But the information coming through the line elevates the intensity and urgency both are feeling to a new level. What they’re about to do puts everything that was on their schedule, social calendar or to-do list on the backburner — for as long as it takes. As the founders and backbone of Roofers in Recovery, they know lives are on the line.
Founded about a year ago by the Reeds and friend Eric Oberembt, the 501c3 nonprofit helps get roofing contractors battling substance issues into treatment.
“It could be any time of day or night during the week … 10 o'clock at night … six o'clock in the morning … Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday. It doesn't matter,” Paul said. “It’s when people finally hit that point and reach out, and so it’s our natural instinct to drop what we're doing and literally go to where we need to go, or get on that phone call with whoever we need to.”
They’ll call in favors; nudge friends and acquaintances; and even approach complete strangers to get people out of danger — wherever they are — while finding space at a treatment center or mustering the funds to keep them there.
This one was no ordinary call. The man they were trying to help jumped off a bridge three years ago, and barely survived. Reed said he was resuscitated multiple times from an overdose and spent 30 days in a coma before his recovery began. But on this day — all that time later — the addiction got the best of him. The man was in a cocaine-induced stupor and needed immediate help when he got the call, Reed said. Within 12 hours, the couple had the man placed at the Valley Hope Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center in the greater Dallas area.
“That’s why we have to clear our calendars,” Kimberly Reed added. “It's just our number-one priority in life to be able to drop what we have in order to go help somebody and make sure that we're doing the right thing for them.”
Valley Hope has seven locations in states across the Midwest as well as Arizona and Colorado, and has worked with Roofers in Recovery from the start.
Another example Reed shares involves an addict holed up in a crack house in Baton Rouge, La., not too long ago. Unable to find any local resources to help, a team of roofers from Dallas drove through the night, picked him up the next morning and rescued him to start his recovery.
Nowhere near out of the woods, but at least they’re safe.
“The reason why we do this is because we remember that at some point, someone did that for us,” Paul said. “The only reason I'm here today, and the reason that most people in recovery are here today, is because at some point when they were trying to get sober, somebody stepped up.”
From the Bottom
The path toward and through recovery has many twists and turns and is different for everyone, Reed explained. What’s common for addicts that seek it is that it typically begins at “rock bottom” — when the addict believes they won’t last another day or so in their current state. Reed found his 14 years ago when he awoke in a mental hospital, on the cusp of unraveling from a decade-long meth addiction. He remembered it all starting a few days earlier on the rooftop.
Working for himself in south Colorado at the time, Reed said he was installing shingles on a home when he accidentally drove a 1-3/4 inch nail through his knee. After getting help from a friend to remove the nail, he went back to work, and kept on that knee for a good two or three days before the signs of infection set in. What he thought would be a quick trip to the doctor’s office turned into an emergency surgery that doctors would later tell him saved his leg.
Whatever concerns he had, whatever warnings from friends or loved ones he heard but failed to heed, none of it outweighed his need to get high. Again. And again. Bedridden while recovering from his unplanned surgery, Reed started to lose his grip on reality. How long would he be here? How would he work? How would he finish the jobs he sold, and complete the ones he’d need to sell just to stay in business? How would he get high?
He said he did what addicts do. He proved no injury, or even potentially life-saving surgery, was going to beat his need for the rush, the euphoria, and then the crushing letdown his addiction provided so many times before. He yanked the IV from his arm, left the hospital and found comfort in his old habit — binging on meth. The details of his next few days are foggy, but he said the bender must have certainly been memorable.
Reed awoke in a mental hospital, literally strapped up and committed after acting out while he spent a few days feeding the addiction. Taking in his surroundings, and realizing many of his new neighbors had certifiable mental health issues, he knew he needed help. Despite the emotional and financial support he received from friends and loved ones to start treatment, he also understood the biggest change would have to come from within.
“I had to listen to other people tell me ‘this is what you had to do,’” he said.
The strangers he met at the facility and the people that loved him urged Reed to seek help, and he did. But the first local treatment center he called didn’t have a vacancy for a few days. A second one he tried was also full. After essentially begging, imploring that his life was hanging in the balance of just a few days, the initial place he called found him a spot.
“I was so desperate, but I can guarantee you there was not going to be a third call,” Reed said.
He entered the program and sobered up, but it wasn’t until day 27 of his 30-day stay that something clicked — hope had set in. Reed agreed to spend the next six months living in a halfway house and worked with a local roofer willing to give him a chance.
Striking Down the Stigma
Recovery, Reed explained, is a lifelong struggle. He feels it every day, as does Kim, who had her own bouts with alcohol before they found each other about a dozen years ago. Getting so close to the help he needed, but nearly being turned away for treatment, left Reed wondering how many others weren’t as fortunate, or can’t even think about shouldering the cost of treatment.
Reed and Oberembt first set out to create an annual scholarship program that would send one person to treatment a year, but they recognized the need was much bigger. So they thought bigger. Spurred by COVID-19 and the need to move substance abuse support group meetings online, they started a weekly video session for roofers, which became the foundation for Roofers in Recovery.
Now there’s a nonprofit organization available 24/7 via its website focused on helping roofers get into and progress through recovery. Part of the process is getting them to understand their true potential and reach it in sobriety.
The Reeds hope they get to intervene before someone’s rock bottom, but given their own experiences know that’s not always possible. Though no one keeps statistics on the pervasiveness of substance abuse in roofing, they know the problem is real and growing. Now that they’ve got the organization started, they believe spreading the word that help is available industry-wide is key.
The mission isn’t just to support one another in recovery but to show others real examples of roofers overcoming obstacles that substance abuse throws in their way. Providing courage, strength and hope goes a long way in the battle of getting and staying sober, Reed said, but those with addiction disorders still face the stigma, shame, and helplessness they have for decades.
The stigma not only hinders people from getting help, but it also acts as a trigger to use. It prevents them from being relieved of the stranglehold drugs or alcohol have on them, preventing them from being the people they knew they were designed to be.
“Most people are embarrassed by it and they don’t want to admit they have a problem,” Reed said. “We want to stop that stigma. To let them know it happens, and that we get it. We understand and we’re here to get you some help.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call Paul directly at 719-588-4361.